On Friday 10th October, Mulberry School for Girls held our Women’s Education conference – ‘Educating Twenty First Century Women: Passion, Possibilities and Power’. The conference took place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster and was attended by over 360 students from 30 schools.
The conference focused on the importance of an education tailored to the needs of twenty first century women. Spotlight was placed on young women’s passion to make positive social change and the possibilities that lie ahead for them. The students heard of the power and achievements of positive female role models from a range of backgrounds. The following were the conference objectives:
- To support young women in developing an awareness of the possibilities open to them and empower them with the confidence to pursue those possibilities.
- To provide a platform for young women to make their voices heard, and to hear other powerful female voices.
- To create a forum for discussion of the representation of women in various sectors and how this affects young women.
- To create an environment in which young women, educators and positive female role models can engage with each other and discuss shared passions.
- To enable young women to develop their own leadership and advocacy skills through taking responsibility for the planning, delivery and follow up of the conference.
Discussing ‘passion’, our first panel was chaired by Emma Barnett, Women’s Editor of the Telegraph. We heard from Shobana Jeyasingh, Choreographer and Founder of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance; Deborah Bull, former Creative Director of the Royal Opera House and now Director of Cultural Partnerships at King’s College London; and Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director of London’s Royal Court Theatre. Our keynote speaker was Phyllida Lloyd, who recently directed the ground breaking all-female production of Julius Caesar, and who will be directing the all-female production of Henry IV with the Donmar Warehouse, which will be performed at Mulberry throughout December. Our conference delegates were encouraged by Lloyd’s message that a significant number of London’s world-leading theatres are now managed and directed by women – women who are very interested in the work of women writers, directors, producers and technicians. Our first panel anticipated a future in which women lead in the arts, and called upon our delegates to be bold in their artistic contributions.
Our second panel, discussing ‘Possibilities’, was chaired by Kirsten Bodley, Executive Director of STEMNET. We also heard from Dr Victoria Herridge, Palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum; Ndidi Okezie, Executive Director of Teach First; Belinda Parmar, Founder and CEO of Lady Geek, the creative agency which aims to make technology more accessible and appealing to women; and Professor Paola Domizio, Professor of Pathology Education at Barts and the London. Some of the most successful women in the field of science and technology addressed our delegates with passion and enthusiasm. Dr Herridge urged students from state schools not to be deterred by competition from private schools when applying for competitive work experience; Ndidi Okezie encouraged students to ‘seize as many opportunities and get as much experience as possible’.
Our final panel, on ‘Power’, was chaired by Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista. She spoke alongside Eleanor Mills, Editorial Director of the Sunday Times; Emily Thornberry MP, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury; Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture; and our keynote speaker, the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Speaker’s Chaplain at the House of Commons. Opened by a powerful keynote speech from the Reverend Hudson-Wilkin, this panel sparked impassioned debate between speakers and between delegates. Delegates left feeling challenged and inspired.
Our delegates also watched the end result of a collaborative film project between Mulberry, Ursuline High School and Postcode Films – ‘Shaping our Futures’ was a series of short films exploring the work of some of the UK’s most inspiring women and female-led organisations, including Liberty, Clean Break, Luminary Bakery, Magic Me and the work of Baroness Susan Greenfield.
Following the conference, there was a reception in the Peers’ Dining Room at the House of Lords, courtesy of Lord Michael Bates. Speeches celebrated Mulberry’s 50th Anniversary, and paid homage to our ‘principled, articulate and inspiring’ students.
Mulberry would like to thank all those who contributed to and participated in such a successful and inspiring day.